This chicken brine recipe is made with lemons, honey, fresh herbs and spices, and produces a juicy tender chicken every time! A foolproof way for succulent and flavorful roasted, smoked or fried chicken.
If you’ve never had a brined chicken before, you’re missing out! It takes just minutes to make a chicken brine, but the end result is nothing short of fabulous. Serve your brined chicken with glazed carrots and rice pilaf for a complete meal.
I always get anxious about cooking large items of poultry like whole chickens and turkeys. It’s just so easy to either overcook the birds until they’re dry as a bone, or undercook them so they’re raw in the middle. This chicken brine infuses a whole bird with tons of flavor and helps to keep it from drying out in the oven. Brined chicken is the best chicken you’ll ever eat!
How do you make chicken brine?
To make this recipe, you’ll need salt, honey, lemons, herbs, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. Everything goes into a large pot with water and is simmered until the salt has dissolved. After the mixture has cooled to room temperature, you can add your chicken to the pot, then refrigerate it until you’re ready to make dinner.
Why do you brine chicken?
Chicken is a naturally lean type of meat which mean it’s prone to drying out. When a chicken is placed into brine, it absorbs some of the brine which helps to both keep it moist and also to season it all the way through. When you’re working with a brined chicken, even if you overcook it a bit, it should still come out tender and juicy.
How long do you brine chicken?
A whole chicken should be submerged in brine for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours. Do not go past the 24 hour mark, as your chicken may be overly salty if it sits in the brine for too long. If you’re looking to brine bone-in chicken pieces such as chicken thighs, drumsticks or breasts, you’ll want to soak them for about 4 hours. If you’re working with boneless chicken pieces, you can brine them for about 2 hours.
Helpful Tips and Tricks
- This recipe tends to work well with smaller chickens in the 3-5 pound range. This is simply because you’re more likely to have a deep pot to brine a smaller chicken in. If your chicken is larger than the biggest pot in your house, you can use a brining bag.
- Be sure to use kosher salt, do not use table salt in this recipe. Table salt measures differently than kosher salt and your chicken will be too salty with table salt. I typically use Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
- Feel free to mix up the flavorings to fit your preferences. You can try orange instead of lemon, brown sugar instead of honey, add dried chiles for a little spice, or use fresh sage instead of thyme.
- Make sure the liquid is completely cooled before you add the chicken for food safety reasons. Sometimes when I’m in a hurry, I add a cup of ice cubes to help speed the process along.
How do you cook brined chicken?
You can cook this type of chicken in any way that you would normally cook a whole chicken. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Sometimes I like to add a few teaspoons of chicken seasoning to the outside of the bird before I cook it.
- Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Herbs
- Slow Cooker Whole Chicken
- Peruvian Chicken
- Rotisserie Chicken
- Fried Chicken
Once you try a brined chicken, you’ll be hooked! Everyone will think you’re a gourmet chef when they get a taste of your perfectly cooked chicken. While making a this brining solution is an extra step in the cooking process, it’s totally worth it in my opinion.
Chicken Brine Video
Chicken Brine Recipe
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt do not use table salt
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 dried bay leaves
- 5 cloves of garlic smashed and peeled
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 sprigs fresh parsley
- 2 lemons sliced
- 4 lb whole chicken
- Place the water, salt, honey, bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, rosemary, thyme, parsley and lemons in a large pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes or until salt has dissolved.
- Turn off the heat and cool completely.
- Add the chicken to the cooled brine. Make sure the chicken is completely submerged.
- Cover the pot and refrigerate for 8-24 hours.
- Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse with cool water; pat dry with paper towels. Proceed with roasting, smoking or frying the chicken.
This post was originally published on January 2, 2019 and was updated with new content on January 13, 2022.
Loved this brine. I marinated the chicken for 8 hours. I added 1 small orange to the ingredients.
Next time I will only add a few TBSP’s of the Kosher Salt. I am not a huge salt fan and found 1/2 cup to be too much for my taste. But, if you like salt I would recommend keeping the 1/2 cup.
Thanks for sharing. I will certainly make this again!
I’m getting ready to brine bone-in chicken thighs before cooking them on my Weber kettle grill. Since you can brine whole chicken for 8 to 24 hours, does it follow that your 4 hour recommendation for bone-in chicken pieces could be as many as 12 hours?
Yes that will work!
Hi! Is it worth doing a brine if you only have a couple hours before it needs to go in the oven?
I wouldn’t do it unless you have an absolute minimum of 4-6 hours.
Can’t wIt till morning when I try brining a whole chicken to cook for lunch!! Your recipes soon so delicious
Hi Sara, I love this recipe. I don’t cook a whole chicken without it. The meat is so tender and juicy including any leftovers. I do use limes instead of lemons because of a dietary restriction but I love how simple this is.
I would double this recipe (at least the water and salt) – was not nearly enough for me to cover a 4.5lb chicken.
It’s ok to add some more water to cover the chicken!
Can you put a frozen whole chicken in the brine and let it thaw in the fridge ?
I’ve brined a chicken that was partially thawed but never one that was completely frozen. I’d make sure it’s at least 50% thawed because if it sits in the brine for too long while you wait for it to thaw it can get overly salty.
Do y’all think I reuse the brine for another meat?immediately after I take out chicken?
You’d only be able to add other chicken products to the brine.
I’d be worried about cross contamination. Also, how long would it be before you brine another chicken? Ingredients aren’t so expensive that I’d risk re-using the brine.
Can I brine for more than 24 hours? Like a day and a half?
I might reduce the salt in the recipe a bit if you’re going to brine longer.